(CN) – Romanian police handcuffed a disabled man to a tree in the rain for several hours, violating his rights, Europe’s human rights court ruled.
Constantin Archip, who has arthritis of the hip, found himself in police custody after becoming upset at a November 2005 town hall meeting in Podoleni, Romania.
Archip had attended the meeting to complain about reduction of his disability benefit, and the mayor and deputy mayor took him to the police station when he became upset and insulted the town hall workers.
Officers handcuffed Archip to a tree in the courtyard for several hours in cold, wet weather. Since the station is in the center of town, local press came to take photos of Archip while he was locked there and published them the next day.
Archip quickly filed a criminal complaint against the chief of police and the mayor, but the suit was dismissed and he was eventually convicted of disorderly conduct.
The European Court of Human Rights said that the “humiliating and debasing” nature of his treatment amounted to a violation of his human rights.
Such treatment to even a person in normal health would be painful, the court pointed out, and it constituted excessive force despite Archip’s out-of-control behavior.
The police chief had claimed Archip was handcuffed for less than half an hour, although later the government acknowledged this was closer to two hours, and eyewitnesses said it could even have been three.
This, combined with the lack of explanation for the use of such force, meant that the Romania had violated Archip’s right to an effective investigation and the prohibition on inhuman and degrading treatment, the court said.
The European Court of Human Rights, based in Strasbourg, France, ordered Romania to pay Archip 10,000 euros (about $14,000) in damages.
Decided by a chamber of seven judges, the ruling is not final and could still be challenged by any party.
Once made final, Romania is bound by treaty to carry out the court order.